Friday, May 24, 2024

Old dogs can learn to skate

by Dr. GEOFF EMRY / Exercise Explorer MD
| April 25, 2024 1:00 AM

When Amy Bartoo asked me to try figure skating for fun and exercise, I didn’t realize that was even available here. Little did I know that Lake City Figure Skating Club is part of the largest Learn to Skate program in the Inland Northwest with over 450 participants. Intrigued, I decided to join her on a recent Thursday morning for a "Freestyle Ice" session where coaches work with skaters young and old on United States Figure Skating (USFS) skill tests and programs that will be competed at upcoming events.  

Pulling into Frontier Ice Arena just before 6, Amy was still getting out of her car but launched right into the history of our local figure skating program. It turns out that Amy’s history and the history of figure skating in Coeur d’Alene are not only fascinating, but intertwined.

As I laced up my skates, she explained that, growing up on Fernan Lake, she taught herself to skate. “I would skate on Fernan with no coach, no knowledge. I’d watch TV and then try to emulate what I saw.” And although she taught herself “a ton of bad habits,” she said “I thought I was going to go to the Olympics. I don’t know how I thought I was going to do that with no coach and no ice.”

Although her Olympic dreams faded, Amy’s love of ice skating never diminished and in the early '90s she helped organize a rink at the base of Tubbs HIll by convincing the fire department to come out and flood Memorial Field in the middle of winter. This eventually led to the area’s first rink (Go Kart Family Fun), which opened in 1996. The roof of that rink collapsed in 2012 and the hockey and figure skating community worked tirelessly to raise funds and build what is now known as Frontier Ice Arena.

While putting up with my atrocious skating (basically going in slow circles around the rink), Amy skated backward, sprinkling in some twizzles and other skills, and chatted happily about the current state of figure skating in North Idaho. Hockey, according to Amy, is extremely popular and has lots of financial support. “Figure skating, on the other hand, is hockey's wicked stepchild in North Idaho and yet, we have some amazing up and coming young people in our area.” There’s a range of ages and even some “old dogs” are working to pass the USFS skill tests needed to advance in this sport, which she admits is “hard and it takes time.” In addition to working individually with coaches, there’s the Learn to Skate Programs (which are sanctioned USFS classes) that take place throughout the year and are open to youth and adults alike.

Amy also introduced me to the director of Lake City Figure Skating Club, Moe Herr, who grew up in Lake Placid, N.Y., around a lot of national competitors and superstars like Scott Hamilton. She explained that in addition to our individual skaters who compete regionally, we have four teams of Theatre On Ice, which is a form of competitive figure skating that combines figure skating with theater and dance (two of which, the Adult Team and the Open Team, are even going to Nationals).  

As we finished up, Amy reflected that “many folks in North Idaho don't realize that Frontier Ice Arena exists, let alone the capacity we have to teach people this super fun skill.” I agree that not only is figure skating available here, it is thriving.

THE GOOD: “It's so fun and there’s just so much to it!” Amy also adds that “figure skating is most definitely a life sport and one that requires so much dedication and skill development.”

THE BAD: Amy did lament that it “is so under promoted/recognized in this area and we have this beautiful facility in which to practice our sport. Speaking of that, Frontier is about to launch a huge fundraising effort … to enable them to add another sheet of ice.”

THE NITTY GRITTY: Learn to Skate classes are Tuesday evenings and cost $120 for eight weeks of lessons, which includes skate rentals and practice time. And if you want to contribute to the ice new rink, you can donate directly to Frontier Ice Arena, 3525 W. Seltice Way, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814.

• • •

Dr. Emry is a family physician and partner at Ironwood Family Practice in Coeur d’Alene. Exercise Explorer MD will appear every other week in The Press and Dr. Emry can be contacted via email © 2024. This work is licensed under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license.

    Amy Bartoo takes a spin around the ice rink.